Due to recent events, you might be spending a lot more time at home than usual.  Maintaining a healthy diet can be challenging when you can’t just head over to the grocery store. However, there are certain foods that are easy to store and provide you with essential nutrients in your extended time at home. It is certainly possible to plan quick and creative meals with just a few basic items and with a little advance planning, you can eat well even if you are unable to leave the house for a period of time. 

With an increasing number of people in quarantine, it’s best to have about two weeks supply of food at home, but there are definitely things you can stock besides pasta, rice and toilet paper. 🙂 Foods that will provide you with your daily macro and micronutrients and enable you to keep a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Vegetables

Fresh

Fresh vegetables with the best longevity include root vegetables like potatoes, carrots and onions. In addition, cabbage is one of the longest-lasting vegetables around. A whole cabbage can actually last between 4-5 weeks in the refrigerator! Consider buying different kinds of cabbages like red cabbage, brussels sprouts or Chinese cabbage. There are also nice low carb cabbage-recipes available like hash browns, cheesy cabbage gratin or cabbage lasagna.

Fermented

Due to microorganism activity, enzyme reaction, and oxidation, the shelf life of most other fresh vegetables is considerably short. The oldest method of preserving vegetables is fermentation. Fermented vegetables such as fermented olives, sauerkraut, kimchi, and pickled cucumbers offer several health benefits. With fermentation, the levels of many vitamins such as vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin B9 (folate), vitamin B12, and vitamin K in foods are increased. Additionally, fermented foods contain probiotics, antioxidants and act anti-inflammatory.

Frozen

Another method of preserving vegetables is deep freezing.  Frozen vegetables are easy to store and will provide you with fiber, vitamins and minerals. Frozen cauliflower, carrots, spinach, broccoli, for instance, are as nutritious as fresh ones and may sometimes be even higher in nutrients depending on how long the fresh version was stored and what it was exposed to. For example, water-soluble vitamins, especially thiamin, folic acid and vitamin C, can be destroyed during improper storage if exposed to light or heat. 

Also, canned vegetables like tomatoes, asparagus or artichokes are great to have on hand, however, look for brands with no added salt or sugar.

This is also a good time to cook with garlic and onions since those foods can promote a healthy immune system.

Carbohydrates

Choosing the right carbs

There are healthy carbohydrate-rich foods besides whole wheat pasta and brown rice that can easily be stored and offer the benefit of long shelf life. For instance, oats are a highly nutritious food. Oats are a great source of dietary fiber, especially β-glucan, which has outstanding functional and nutritional properties. β-Glucan is considered to be the major active component of oats because of its cholesterol-lowering and antidiabetic effects. It also has a positive effect on satiety. Additionally, oats are rather high in protein. 100g of oats contain about 13g of protein.

Other grains with high nutritional value include buckwheat, quinoa or millet.

Also, fruits can be part of a healthy quarantine. Berries are particularly high in antioxidants and in comparison to other fruits, are rather low in carbs. Frozen berries make a great snack. Other fruits like apples and  citrus fruits, such as oranges or clementines, will stay fresh for some time. You can store citrus fruits in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and apples will even last for 4-6 weeks.

Protein

Sufficient protein intake is essential for overall health, muscle maintenance as well as for satiety even when your eating options may be limited. 

Frozen seafood like shrimp or fish fillets are likely to be more nutritious than fish from the counter as they are flash-frozen right on the fishing boat. Additionally, buying some plain, unbreaded frozen meat or poultry as it can remain fresh in the freezer for up to 12 months.

It’s great to have some canned salmon, tuna, chicken or sardines on hand for quick meal prep. When buying canned food items, choose low sodium options. We need small amounts of sodium, but high sodium intake can increase the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Most adults only need 1500 mg of sodium per day.

Legumes are another protein option as they provide a rich source of lean protein and fiber as well as folate. Legumes are all the different kinds of beans, including soybeans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils. They contain from 21% of protein in white beans, all the way up to 35% protein in soybeans. 

Hard cheeses can stay fresh for several weeks when refrigerated.  Generally, the harder the cheese, the longer it lasts. Hard cheeses are also a great source of protein and calcium.  A chunk of gouda cheese will last for 2 to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. One hundred grams of gouda contain about 22g of protein and nearly 100% of the recommended daily calcium intake.

Parmesan has the highest protein content of all cheeses. Per 100g, parmesan has 31 g of protein, 0g of carbs and 31 g of fat and contains even slightly more calcium per 100 g than gouda.

Fats

Add a variety of nuts and natural nut butters to your shopping list.Nuts are a great source of healthy fats and are as well rich in protein. For example, almonds contain about 54%, walnuts 62% and brazil nuts even 67% of fat. Nuts are nutrient-dense foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids, high-quality protein, fiber and minerals.

Contrary to expectations, research shows that regular nut consumption is unlikely to contribute to obesity and may even help in weight loss. There are great ways to eat nuts besides simply snacking them. You can prepare a low carb nut and seed bread, roasted brussels sprouts with pecans or plant-based cashew cheese. 

Beyond nuts, healthy fats include high-quality oils like olive oil or flaxseed oil that are rich in unsaturated fatty acids. Flaxseed oil is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is sensitive to light and heat,  so it is best to store it in a cooler, dark place and should only be used for cold dishes. 

A very versatile and delicious ingredient to have in your refrigerator is herbal pesto.

Traditionally pesto is made from basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic parmesan cheese as well as olive oil and you can easily make it yourself. If you store-buy your pesto, make sure that you buy one that is based on olive oil and not sunflower oil as sunflower oil does not provide a favorable fatty acid profile.

One tablespoon of pesto contains about 9g of fat and 2g of protein. You can make tasty recipes with pesto like baked chicken stuffed with pesto and cheese.

Need More? Try Lumen Nutritionist

Would you like to know more about how you can improve your nutrition? Curious about what foods can be combined in order to reach sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids? Lumen is now offering personal nutrition consultations.

With the Lumen nutritionist, you can: 

  • Assess your current nutrition habits and identify possible problems 
  • Set specific and obtainable goals
  • Get customized nutrition interventions 
  • Receive information surrounding the best nutritional and lifestyle choices

The nutrition consultation consists of three sessions and each session will contain nutrition information to help you meet your goals. Click here for more information on the Lumen Nutritionist.

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